The lasting image of Max Domi's 2014-15 campaign was either his tour-de-force performance at the world juniors, or his arching pop-shot goal against Sarnia, if you're more London Knights-centric. But the sturdy and dynamic left winger made just as much of an impact off the ice this season, taking on the captaincy in London and dedicating his spare time to children with diabetes, an affliction he also has to manage himself.
To that end, Domi was recognized with the OHL's Mickey Renaud Captain's Trophy, named in honor of the former Windsor Spitfires leader who passed away well before his time.
“I've been lucky to be a part of four unbelievable hockey teams and you take things from different players every year,” Domi said. “This year we had a younger team and leading by example was my No. 1 thing.”
The Arizona Coyotes first-rounder would meet with diabetic kids after games and respond to their letters – many of which came after he helped Canada to gold at the world juniors in Toronto.
It's another side to a player best known for goal-scoring and physical play and the attitude he displayed this year will surely help when he tries to crack his first NHL roster in the fall.
Last season, Domi was cut from the Coyotes, even if more than a few pundits thought he was ready for duty. But the Desert Dogs had rushed prospects in the past and been burned, particularly during the Wayne Gretzky coaching era. So Domi went back to London and put in the work.
“Max had a terrific season and his development was exactly what he had hoped for,” said Coyotes GM Don Maloney. “He went back to junior with a great attitude, became captain of his team and obviously had a terrific world junior experience. And the icing on the cake was being named captain of the league.”
Even earning the 'C' in London was gratifying for Domi, especially since it came from his teammates, via a vote.
“No one likes to talk about themselves,” Domi said. “But when your best buddies acknowledge you like that...it's one of the most rewarding things I've ever felt.”
While Arizona still isn't gifting youngsters with roster spots, there will be jobs available on a team that is in the midst of a rebuild. Along with Domi, there's speedster Anthony Duclair, who played 18 games for the New York Rangers before returning to junior. He was then sent to Arizona in the Keith Yandle trade. Henrik Samuelsson, a bullish power forward with skill and nastiness, was great for AHL Portland in the playoffs and will also get a long look.
With Antoine Vermette dealt at the deadline to Chicago and the forwards corps not exactly deep to begin with, players such as Domi and Duclair could easily see top-six minutes befitting of their skills, if they show well in camp.
“We need to introduce some younger players into our lineup and I fully expect Max to be one of those players, provided his performance is there,” Maloney said. “We're looking forward to seeing him in the fall, seeing him in a Coyote uniform and helping us get better.”
For Domi, who helped the Knights win one OHL title and host a Memorial Cup the next year, he really did it all during his time in London. Now it's time for the left winger to make an even bigger leap into the best league in the world.
“It's really exciting,” he said. “It was pretty emotional finishing off my junior career, but I have a big summer ahead.”